Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack Offers Solutions for Soaring Fertilizer Prices

USDA is looking for solutions to help producers deal with tight supplies and high fertilizer prices headed into spring planting season.

Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack says there are short, medium, and long term responses in the works.

“Short term is basically making sure that we preserve as many options for producers as possible as they make decisions about how do they make it work for their operation. What have they planned, or not planned? Do they get into a program like CRP or not? Do they use other conservation practices? Do they take advantage of the new risk management tool that we created at USDA that basically says if you’re splitting your Nitrogen, if you’ve been applying in spring and fall and you only apply at once and you see a crop reductions result, maybe there’s a way in which we can compensate you for that?”

In the mid-term, he says more research is needed to support application efficiency and he is supporting an investigation from a group of state attorney generals to ensure high fertilizer prices are a result of the market, not unfair practices.

“If there are folks who may be potentially taking a bit of advantage of this circumstance, well, then that’s not that’s not right. So, we are providing support and help for that. Study to make sure that the questions that are, I think, legitimate questions, to make sure that they are answered in a way that gives us confidence that whatever the price increases are, that they’re reasonable under the circumstances.”

In the long term, he says the us needs to become less dependent on foreign sources for fertilizer ingredients.

“We’re taking a look at steps that we could take at USDA, which we hope to be able to announce relatively soon, about things where we can create an environment in which we can address this here at home and we think that that’s a long-term strategy, in addition to sensor technology that can be developed, that will equip producers with the ability to go into individual acres and say, hey, the sensors basically saying you don’t even have to fertilize this acre at all. Other acres, you’re going to have to apply a little bit more this acre over here, maybe a little bit less.”

He says it’s also critical for Congress to pass a budget so USDA can hire the staff needed to provide technical assistance to farmers as they consider how to adjust inputs on the farm to reduce costs and improve sustainability.


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